Nobody Watches anymore

I paid my admission, donned my rain coat and headed for the elevator that would take me down to the observation platform at Niagara Falls. I’d done that many years ago as a young lad with my mother, brother and sisters. I remember seeing gazillion gallons of water cascading down with a deafening roar.

Below on the river the Maid of The Mist tour boat picked its way close to the base of the falls. Everyone I could see aboard was also dressed in rain coats. I remembered that experience when everyone watch the falls and a few tried to get some pictures without getting their cameras soaked.

But today was different, the observation gallery was just as packed with tourists, but almost everyone faced away from the falls, arms outstretched holding a smart-phone taking ‘selfies’ with the falls in the background.

For Sunday Photo Fiction: March 15, 2015

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Chief Smusher

A few years ago, almost 2 decades ago, my son’s in-laws invited me to Thanksgiving diner. I was going to bring desert in the form of Pumpkin Pie. Now when I make Pumpkin Pie I don’t use that canned stuff, but will chop up, cook then mash the real thing. That is a bit of work, but then I have done all the work, sorry Libby.

This particular Thanksgiving my older grandson, probably about the age of 3 or 4 said he’s like to help. But his comments about Pumpkin Pie went about like “Yetch!” and that he didn’t like it. But he would come help me do all the work.

Now making pumpkin pie from scratch does involve a bit of work, scrape the innards from the pumpkin, cut it into small pieces and cut off the hard outer skin. I handled the knife, my grandson was too small and it took a bit of strength for the cutting and peeling. But as soon as I had pieces of pumpkin he asked if he could taste one,”Not now!” was my reply. The pieces then went into a pot of boiling water to cook for a few minutes. When they were soft he asked again if he could taste them, and got the same reply.

Next comes the job of turning lumps of pumpkin into the correct consistency for a pie, out comes a Foley Food Mill that was in my family ever since I could remember. I don’t know if it started with my mom or my Grandmother. Never mind, it was mine now. Grandson and I got out some pots to grind the pumpkin into. I showed him how to turn the crank. With that he became my “Chief Smusher”. As you can now guess, after smushing all the pumpkin he wanted to taste, with the same answer.

The next stop was to add the spices and condensed milk. Guess what he wanted to do. You probably guessed, he wanted to taste again. but I still said, “Not yet.”

A couple of hours later after dinner when desert came he announced what his title was, you guessed it “The Chief Smusher“, and began to devour the pie, his comment,”YUM!”. I don’t know if he sill likes pumpkin pie, but nor if he has told his fiancé that they will need a Foley Food Mill, they’re available here. Maybe I should get them one as a wedding present.

There are many recipes, the one I use is a “Tawney Pumpkin Pie“, found in the late 1960’s edition of the “Womans Day Encyclopedia of Cooking“, sadly long out of print. Use any recipe but substitute real pumpkin for the canned stuff, and add your own mixture of spices instead of pre-mixed pie-spice. You can bask in the knowledge that it is your own creation.

P.S. A note from “The Chief Smusher” himself:

… And I still like pumpkin pie. …

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Whose Island ?

A friend of mine heading to an island? What would I send him/her off with? Well, most of my friends are either woodworkers of GeoCachers so before I suggest what they take it will depend of which hobby they have.

If she is a woodworker, yes even the “fair sex” get their hair full of sawdust and wood chips, I’d pack her a few pieces of wood and a chip carving knife. More items, a small stone so she can keep the knife sharp and a few pencils to lay out a pattern on the wood.

On the other hand, if she is a Geocacher, I’d expect that she had a GPS receiver, but I’d make sure she had lots of spare batteries and a solar charger. Yes there geocaches almost everywhere. the island would have to be deserted for quite a while to be devoid of caches.

Hmm, not five items yet. Well, some water bottles, I like a Hydro Flask. They’re well insulated and will keep ice for about day. But if the island is really deserted there may not be a source of ice.

for Daily Post, Daily Prompt, Someone Else’s Island Dec 1, 2014

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Tale of Two Dinners

This is the story of two dinners, one a great success, the other sort of. Further back than I want to remember my wife came to me with an idea, The conversation went like this.

Her, “I’m thinking of inviting Father Tom to dinner in a couple weeks.”
Me, “That sounds great, what’re having?”
Her, “I don’t know yet. You can cook anything you like!”
Me, “Ok, I’ll come up with something.”

I do like to cook, and had been collecting the “Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cooking” ( sadily it sees that eBay is the only place to find that 12 volume set.), the mid 1960s edition in the grocery store every month or so. Yes it was that long ago.

I worked a day or so mulling over the books till I came up with a menu I had never cooked before. I do have some confidence in my abilities in the kitchen. The combo I came up with was based out of the “Pennsylvania Dutch” section and consisted of “Pork Balls with Noodles”, “Sour Beans”, hot Popovers, and ending with “Rhubarb Pie”. And this would be on a weekday evening after I worked all day.

I could go on with how I timed everything so that I spent almost no time in the kitchen after Fr. Tom arrived. The dinner was a great success.

The second great dinner was probably about 5 or so years later. We were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner to include my sister and her husband. And again I was the cook. Almost disaster. I wanted something that looked traditional, but not Turkey. So out of the same set of cookbooks I came up with “Crown Roast of Pork.” Man that thing was huge. It just barely fit in my oven! Add to that, I had no pan large enough to hold it. Two cookie sheets covered with aluminum foil wouldn’t do the trick either. In a panic I knocked on a neighbor’s door and asked her if she had any idea. Luckily she had a sheet cake pan large enough and would loan it to me. One disaster averted.

All but one enjoyed my creation, including mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and if I remember, cranberry sauce (out of the can). There was one holdout that didn’t like it, “It’s NOT turkey and this Thanksgiving!”

Both of these were so far back that I don’t have any pictures, the crown roast photo if from What’s Cooking America

for the Daily Post Shaken and Stirred Nov. 26, 2014

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Pushing Envelopes

I’m not a writer, never was and never feel I could be. But recently various challenges from the Daily Post, and other WordPress challenges have made me sit in front of the keyboard and try my hand. This post is short, but it gave me one more chance to see if I could break my “can’t write” streak.

One small challenge a few weeks ago, began a trilogy with the Sunday Photo Fiction. Though I just haven’t been inspired enough by the last two. Or maybe it is because the weather has been way too good to spend time in front of the computer. Warm, or just comfortable, temperatures just call like Siren Songs to get me outdoors.

for The Daily Prompt Envelope Pushers, November 24, 2014

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cousin-it

Other than myself, I guess I’d say that one of my Uncles would be the “Cousin-It” in my family. About me, well for a long time one of my passions was flying, not powered planes, but instead I owned and flew a Sailplane, no I’m not really crazy I stayed from away Hang-Gliders. After my eyes aged to a point that I grounded myself, I took up kayaking, gentle sea-kayaking, not white-water paddling. Yeah mom thought I was sort of crazy.

But the real “Cousin It” of the family was mom’s brother. Though at times she’d say he was our uncle, there were 4 of us kids to share him as an uncle. We’d all say “No, HE is your brother!” So just what was it that earned him the reputation.

One example I still remember. We all lived in Maryland, so he bought a 30′ sloop that was in a marina near Chicago, on Lake Michigan, and wanted it on the Chesapeake. No problem. He’s sail it on the lakes. North from Chicago around lower Michigan then south on Lake Huron then pass Detroit onto Lake Erie to Buffalo. We were going to take it down the Erie Canal, Hudson River, the Jersey coast then up the Delaware Bay and down the Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis. But that trip is for another story

That was his part of the journey. Once in Buffalo, the mast was ‘stepped’ and dad built an A-frame to hold the downed mast so we could take the boat, now named “The Wench” down the Erie Canal. While dad was prepping the boat for the rest of its journey, mom and us four kids loaded enough clothes and food for a couple of weeks on-board.

Before we set off on the cruise we all went to a Chinese Restaurant for dinner. I was still in elementary school at the time and hadn’t been to many Chinese restaurants so being a bit curious I asked my uncle “What’s that yellow stuff?” His answer was “Chinese Butter, just put it on thick.” As a foolish kid I believed him. No it wasn’t butter after all. You can guess, it was HOT Mustard. I think I can still taste it burning my tongue. I still like Chinese food but stay away from the mustard.

That’s just one of the ways he earned the reputation.

Oh, yes. The trip down the Erie Canal was memorable, but for a pre-teen it waw boring at the time. It was about half a century later when I bicycled the entire canal two years in a row. That’s probably earned me the cousin-it for my generation. The ride was easy, only 420 miles, but I did get to spend lunch breaks and evenings walking through all the small towns that we only saw as the boat motored by.

for The Daily Post Cousin It

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Creative Eavesdropping

A friend and I were having coffee at my favorite roastery, Mad City Cafe, near home a few months ago. I forget now what our conversation was about. But one phrase one of used triggered a reaction from a nearby table.

I wish I could remember now what we were talking about, something trivial, or what the magic phrase was. But a gentleman at the neighboring table interrupted. Then for the next half an hour the three of us had an exciting discussion. As he was leaving he apologized for the interruption, “It’s just that now and then I overhear something that just makes me curious. I call it ‘Creative Eavesdropping’ “. A good name for it. Way too often I go into coffee shops and find that every table is occupied by one person with their nose buried in their laptop computer. Everybody is ignoring what is going on around them. I hardly ever take more than my iPhone with me. When I want to write I do it at home, or let the idea germinate while I drive home to get it on paper, metaphorically that is.

We need more Creative Eavescropping

for Daily Post Writing Challenge Overheard, Nov 18, 2014

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